I think there's a few more things operating here.
For one thing, take a look at a handful of pictures in, say, a 1958
Practically everybody has some Silver Streak or Ambroid kits.
Most are assembled at least adequately, a few really well, a few
are really hack-jobs. Now go to a train show and browse the vintage
HO (only because I very rarely see old kitbuilt O). Again, there are
few really well-done kits, a few really bad ones, and a lot that are
at least adequate.
This, I think, aligns with something I know very well. When a person
of average skill, such as I am, encounters an unfamiliar job, he often
rushes or otherwise mangles it. But by the next time, or perhaps
the third time, he has learned enough to do it reasonably well. I
know this to be true for me, because I ruined a yard-sale vintage
Revell Popcorn Wagon kit (ow) and perhaps half a dozen other
plastic car kits before I gained the patience to sand, paint, remove
chrome, and avoid surplus glue. But when I finally got that 1957
Bel Air complete (and painted a two-tone green of extraordinarily
disgusting and yet beautiful authenticity) I was just so DAMNED
proud of myself. That feeling was worth all the wasted plastic.
With train kits, much the same thing happened. I ruined a Mantua
2-6-2, and to fail to extract a working model from those extremely
well-designed kits is really a negative accomplishment, I must
say. I then attempted an Arbour 4-6-0 with very dire results that
got donated to a local watchmaker. Poor guy. But then I tackled
an MDC 2-6-0, which was quite frankly a lot trickier than the 2-6-2,
and after a lot of slow and careful work it ran absolutely
What a charge it was when I put the motorless but otherwise
finished chassis on a piece of track, tipped it slightly, and
watched the rods lashing as it coasted away!
And again, I still have my second scratchbuilt cardstock house.
It's pretty bad, but I kept at it, and the latest one is a lot better.
I'm no Rob Corriston yet but I can aspire. :)
SO where am I getting, with all this wordiness? Well, I am trying
to say that everybody in those old MRs with their stick-kits and
"airplane glue" must have gone through this very same learning
curve. First attempts are often disastrous; third are just as often
successes, and that first success is all the better when it takes
effort. And yet, I keep on reading anecdotes online or in MR that
describe how somebody tried something, failed, and never tried
again. But in so doing, they never know the thrill it gives to know
that your own hands now have the ability to do something they
couldn't do before. It's an empowering feeling, and if you can't find
the time to seek out that feeling, which is one of the best rewards
any hobby can provide, then please, scale back participation in
some other part of the hobby so that you can. Better to build a
diorama and gain that skill, than try for an empire and lose the
Another thing I'd like to mention is that model railroading, though a
largish hobby, is often greatly influenced by a very few 'idea-
In a previous era, Linn Westcott was a veritable giant, and his
focus on the techniques of the hobby was no doubt a huge influence
on what modelers of the time thought of their hobby. Frank Ellison,
practically on his own, made the way-freight the center of model
railroad operations for a while.
Today is no exception. I think we are just leaving the Allen
McClelland era of model railroading -- the era of a railroad that is
not a "real railroad, only with small trains" like the G & D, but
a railroad that doesn't try to be a real one on its own, but an
accurately modeled railroad simulation. Tony Koester and
John Nehrich are other notable promoters of this style. It's a
good style; I like the "real railroad" approach better, but if you
want to simulate part of the SP or ACL, the McClelland way
definitely seems easier.
I believe that the McClelland era, too, has seen some de-emphasis
on model building. In a way, the Allen approach propelled you,
through space constraints, into some degree of free-lancing; it's
easier to justify the compromises a small railroad must make if
it's your own line. Free-lancing encourages customizing and
scratchbuilding, simply because nobody is going to build you
a G&D 4-10-0. Conversely, when the emphasis is mostly on
train operations-simulation (not traffic simulation as in the other
approach) and modeling of a prototype or near-prototype, some
attention is inevitably drawn away from model building.
I think the McClelland era ended, in a semi-poetic sense, when
Koester tore down his Allegheny Midland. The ideas go on, and
yet all around there are signs that the themes are changing.
I don't know yet what they are changing to, yet.
That's enough running at the mouth for now from me. Over.
President, a box of track and some grids.